A ban on government use of drones in North Carolina may get somewhat of a reprieve if the Tar Heel state’s budget proposal is approved. However, the ban would clash with a drone regulation bill making its way through the legislature.
In the state’s 2013 budget, lawmakers added a measure that states “no State or local governmental entity or officer may procure or operate an unmanned aircraft system or disclose personal information about any person acquired through the operation of an unmanned aircraft system.” The ban would have expired in July 2015. However, under Gov. Pat McCrory’s most recent budget plan, that ban would be extended five months to Dec. 31, 2015.
Meanwhile, the N.C. House passed a bill in June that would allow government agencies to deploy drones in certain situations — albeit with some safeguards. The bill stalled in a Senate committee in July and will be reconsidered in 2015. According to House sponsors, it would trump the 2013 budget measure if passed (and presumably the 2014 budget measure as well).
House Bill 1099 permits commercial use of drones in North Carolina with some caveats.
The bill, which received bipartisan support, prohibits:
•Damage or disrupt any manned aircraft operations via drones;
•Possess or deploy a drone armed with any weapons;
•Photograph or conduct surveillance on any persons with a drone or publish drone-recorded photos without consent (unless the photos are recorded at “newsworthy events or events to which the public is invited”).
The bill also authorizes law enforcement to deploy drones to:
•Conduct surveillance with a warrant;
•Deploy drones to stop potential terrorist attacks
•Curtail “imminent danger to life or serious damage to property;”
•Stop the escape of a suspect;
•Search for a missing person;
•Record public gatherings on public or private property.
The National Conference of State Legislatures reports that in 2013, 43 states introduced 130 bills addressing drone issues.